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The Lewis Legacy-Issue 82, Autumn 1999

In the Footsteps of Amazon.com Original Article

I am fond of looking up novels on amazon.com and reading random reviews,but I must say, that kind of anonymous forum is a real breeding ground for
mini-hoaxes. Peter Brooks, one of my professors at Yale, recently wrote a
novel. Out of curiosity I checked the reviews, and the headings of two of
them contained the names of people I recognized from Yale: one a fellow
grad student, supervised by Peter Brooks, and the other a junior professor
in my department, one of Brooks’ colleagues. The first review, supposedly
written by the grad student friend of mine, was favorable to the novel but
very stupidly and badly worded. The other was negative and extremely
derisive of Brooks (“if anyone is interested in the wet dreams of a Yale
literary critic, read this book” — that kind of thing). Well, I thought
both reviews were rather odd, but it never occurred to me to doubt that
they came from the people they purported to come from. Sometime later, I
mentioned casually to my friend that I had seen his review of Brooks’ novel
on amazon.com, and well, you guessed it, he had never posted a review at
all. When he saw the reviews, he was quite upset. A harmless prank?
Maybe, but if Peter Brooks had read the reviews and taken them at face
value, he might have thought less of one of his colleagues and one of his
own graduate students. Also, it’s troubling to think that some other person
at Yale, someone who knows my department well, would be malicious enough to
do something like that. Some time later I discovered that another friend of mine, a first-time novelist with a rather crazy sense of humor, was unhappy with his rating on amazon.com and decided to post a lot of favorable reviews for his own novel (“I loved it — five stars!”). He then confessed what he had done in a very funny article, which was published in the web literary magazine Salon. He called it, “Dangers of the Amazon.”
Contributed by Chimene Bateman